Toyota made a start to its 2006 season by hosting a media event at its manufacturing facility in Valenciennes, France on January 14th. It was not the traditional launch of a new car as the team's 2006 challenger, the TF106, made its track debut at...
Toyota made a start to its 2006 season by hosting a media event at its manufacturing facility in Valenciennes, France on January 14th. It was not the traditional launch of a new car as the team's 2006 challenger, the TF106, made its track debut at Barcelona in November last year and has regularly been testing since then.
"We feel that the concept of holding a new car launch at the beginning of each year, just for the sake of it, is outdated," said technical director chassis Mike Gascoyne. Toyota progressed from the TF105 to the B version of that chassis for the last two races of 2005, and the TF106 was ready to run just six weeks after the end of the season.
"We are updating more major elements on an increasingly frequent basis," Gascoyne continued. "Although this can be a difficult process to manage it does mean that we can ensure resources are being spent in areas that make the car go quicker, as and when it is required, and not simply on redesigning existing components just because we feel that we have to."
"Consequently, we have moved to a process of continuous evolution, hence the smooth transition from TF105 to TF105B and to the early completion of TF106."
Toyota's intention when debuting the TF106 so early, rather than use and interim chassis, was to get as much experience as possible with the V8 engine and also to acclimatise to the switch to Bridgestone tyres. Renault and Red Bull have also had their new cars testing, but only since the start of this year.
"With the move from V10 to V8 engines in 2006, it has been extremely beneficial to have the TF106 package running in the November-December tests," said Luca Marmorini, technical director of the engine department. "By waiting until January, it would be too long to react and change long-lead parts in time for the first race."
"We were able to confirm things that we tested on the dyno and generally we have maximised our time. All drivers have given us positive feedback in terms of performance and reliability, so we were already confident that we had a raceable package, even if the rate of development never stops."
By the first race in Bahrain on March 12th, the TF106 will have aerodynamic and suspension upgrades. "The reason everyone pushes their car back as late as possible is to maximise time in the wind tunnel for aero development," explained Gascoyne.
"Our philosophy is to get the best of both worlds by releasing the Bahrain aero package as late as possible, to maximise the development time and reliability running of the mechanical package while ensuring that the aero development time is absolutely at its peak."
"If we'd rolled out a new car for January, we still couldn't have incorporated any of the things we'd learned from testing Bridgestones in November. We can now react and introduce the TF106B bearing in mind all that we've learned from testing."
Toyota's 2005 season was a vast improvement on its previous efforts. With drivers Jarno Trulli and Ralf Schumacher the team climbed to fourth in the constructors' standings and scored its first podiums and pole positions. The only thing missing was the maiden victory, something they hope to rectify this year.
"It's very difficult to predict what will happen, especially with all the variables we face this year with a new V8 engine, new Bridgestone tyres and a revised qualifying format," said team principal Tsutomu Tomita.
"With that in mind, we should aim to be the best Bridgestone team this year. We were a podium scoring team last year, and any team looking to develop must always set its sights higher. Obviously that means finishing on the podium consistently, and ultimately finishing on the top step."
Trulli and Schumacher enter their second year as teammates and will once again be back up by test drivers Ricardo Zonta and Olivier Panis. Trulli hopes that the early debut of the new car will give Toyota a head start on its rivals.
"Hopefully this will give us an advantage for this year," said Trulli. "We cannot say we will be the best, but for sure we will be very well prepared with the new car in terms of mileage and experience."
"We've tried to solve all the problems and get ready for the first race. Now we're doing very well, and it feels good, although there's still a lot of work to be done in the run-up to the first race and beyond. I am optimistic and confident."
Schumacher is optimistic after testing the TF106. "Of course it is still very early, but the new car felt really good," he said. "Obviously, the power is lower but it is still a very driveable engine, with a nice torque curve. I am happy with the new Bridgestone tyres as well, but we have a full programme of pre-season testing and development to continue making improvements to our package."
"It is an intensive schedule with a lot of work to cover before the first race, but that is where we can benefit from having our car ready so early. We learned that last year and saw the gains. It helped us a lot in the first few races, and that's what we are aiming for again."
TF106 technical specifications
Monocoque construction: Moulded carbon fibre and honeycomb construction
Fuel tank: ATL safety cell
Front suspension: Carbon fibre double wishbone arrangement, with carbon fibre trackrod and pushrod. Pushrod activates rocker, torsion bar, damper and anti-roll bar assy
Rear suspension: Carbon fibre double wishbone arrangement, with carbon fibre toelink and pushrod. Pushrod activates rocker, torsion bar, damper and anti-roll bar assy
Wheels: BBS forged magnesium
Tyres: Bridgestone Potenza
Brakes callipers: Brembo
Brakes master cylinders: Brembo
Braking material: Hitco (carbon/carbon)
Steering: Toyota power-assisted steering
Steering wheel display: Toyota carbon fibre wheel with Toyota/Magneti Marelli instrument
Driver seat: Carbon fibre construction, moulded to driver's shape
Driver restraints: Takata
Driver HANS device: Toyota design
Electronic systems: Toyota / Magneti Marelli
Transmission: 7-speed unit plus reverse Toyota-designed maincase with Toyota/Xtrac internals. Gear selection is sequential via driver-controlled electro-hydraulic actuation
Overall length: 4530mm
Overall height: 950mm
Overall width: 1800mm
Overall weight: 600kg including driver and camera.
Number of cylinders: 8
Horsepower: Approximately 740bhp
Revolutions: Around 19,000rpm
Valve actuation: Pneumatic
Throttle actuation: Hydraulic
Spark Plugs: DENSO